I hope all of you enjoyed the long weekend, its always too short when spent with family and friends. I know that this past weekend was an unofficial-official end of summer but I am not willing to let go of the season yet! Burgers are considered a quintessential summer food here. It’s perfect for picnics, camping, grilling outdoors and can be made as casual or gourmet as desired. A meal that fits right into your palms and encourages you to be messy! But when it comes to veggie burgers you hit a wall more often than not. Most store-bought frozen patties are just a chewy, brown mass made up of mysterious ingredients that usually have no taste or flavor whatsoever. Douse it with enough ketchup, mayo and layers of lettuce and tomato and you can almost forget you have the patty in between. In the last few years there have been many new products taking up shelf place but very few have made me go look for them a second time. My favorites have been a spicy black bean burger and a garden veggie with the masala burger patties from TJ’s being the most sought after. I’ve been creating veggie burger patties at home over the last few years so I can avoid the overdose of soy & mushrooms in them. Potatoes, lentils and beans are my got-to choices to form the bulk of the patty and seasonings vary based on my mood and what is available in my kitchen that day.
The main reason for exploring burgers for me is because they are a wonderful lunch option. It gets tiring looking for something to pack for lunch every day for us. Most days its chapati’s with sabji/dal, when I get lazy it’s a rice variety, tiffin’s and salads find a place now and then. I cook in the evenings after I get back from work and trying to plan dinner and lunch is a challenge. If I make something light for dinner then I have to cook separately for lunch the next day and I want to avoid having to cook many things. This is where the idea of a burger/sandwich begins to sound really attractive, as long as I have a stock of good burger patties and condiments in the my refrigerator, all I will need on a day-to-day basis is get some good bread and we are all set for lunch.
I love the concept of a burger because it allows you to get creative with not only the burger patty but also the toppings that go with it and the kind of bread used. Switching between them will give you a different end result and this lets one customize them to their own tastes. In my quest to find flavorful toppings for our sandwiches, I made sauces and spreads and experimented with different combinations over the last few weeks. And I’ll be posting our favorites in the weeks coming up.
Today’s burger is all about the feisty spread from North Africa called Harissa. It’s a blend of hot dried chillies, tart sun-dried tomatoes and aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, caraway spiked with a few cloves of garlic. Getting a store-bought blend is just as easy as making it at home and 100 times more flavor. Make it once and you’ll be hooked for life. I read about it for the first time on Luisa’s blog, The Wednesday Chef and again on Deb’s blog Smitten Kitchen as part of her Carrot salad post. Their high praise for this spicy condiment was all I needed to get started on my own home-made harissa paste and the result was outstanding. The first time I made it I sneaked it into everything I ate for the next 10 days – stirred it into soups, added it to stir fry’s, spread it on sandwiches, stirred into yogurt to spread on my tortilla wrap and many such excuses.
Lentil & Bean BurgerYield - 8-10Prep time - 45minsCook time - 30 minsIngredients:
- 2 cups – Brown/Green lentils, picked and rinsed in multiple changes of water
- ½ cup – Chickpeas, pre-soaked and cooked with a bay leaf and a few cloves
- ¼ cup – Walnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup - each of onions, carrots, green/red peppers, finely diced
- 1-2Tbsp - Cornstarch or ½ cup – Potato, mashed and boiled
- 2 Tbsp – Harissa paste
- Salt & Pepper to season
- ½ cup – Bread crumbs
- 1 Tbsp – Sesame seeds
- 2-3 Tbsp – Vegetable Oil
- In a saucepan combine lentils (reserving ½ cup) and 2.5 cups water along with a couple of cloves and a bay leaf. Bring it a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for about 25-30 mins until done. About 10mins in, add the reserved ½ cup of lentils and continue to cook. At the end of cooking time when the initial batch of lentils are tender & yield when pressed between your fingers, the ½ cup added later will retain some bite and add texture to the burger. Drain the lentils into a colander and set aside to draw out any leftover cooking liquid.
- In the mean time, heat 1 Tbsp of oil and sauté finely diced onions, peppers and carrots until slightly softened. Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
- To a mixing bowl add the cooked chickpeas and mash them completely using your hand or a potato masher. Add salt, pepper, harissa paste, cooked lentils, sautéed veggies and mash them together to form a dense mixture. If you feel that it’s a little loose add corn starch, a Tbsp at a time or mashed potato as needed to get the desired consistency. You should be able to form a patty that holds together.
- Mix bread crumbs, sesame seeds,a little salt and pepper and spread evenly on a plate. Coat the formed patties lightly on both sides with this mixture and arrange them on a plate to rest.
- Once all the lentil patties are formed cover the plate with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-20mins. This will help the lentil mixture to bind and hold together when cooked in the next step.
- Heat a cast iron/non stick sauté pan with some oil and working in batches of 2-3 patties at a time crisp them slightly on both sides until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and toasted. Since all the ingredients in the mixture were pre-cooked a few minutes on each side will do.
- Use the patties to assemble a burger or cool completely and transfer to freezer bags and freeze for later.To assemble the burger - Toast your choice of bread/buns with olive oil/butter. Stack a burger patty and a few spoonfuls of the carrot salad and you are done. You can add mayo, lettuce or pickled onions, but I liked it without them.Notes: You could add sautéed spinach, chopped sundried tomatoes, and substitute other toaste nuts for the walnuts here. I usually tend to use Kaiser rolls or ciabatta for the burgers. Instead of the carrot salad you can stack grilled/sautéed veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, pepper and onions to create the burger and make a light spread using yogurt and harissa paste.
I was so eager to eat the final burger that I forgot to take photos of it! This burger patty is a power house of flavors and textures. The harissa paste does wonders with the earthy lentils making them spicy and delicious. The walnuts add a wonderful texture contrast with their crunch and nuttiness while the sautéed veggies amp up the flavor. These burger patties don’t really need much else to shine through. I had a few patties all by themselves as a snack with a squeeze of lime and chopped onions topped with some chaat masala. You can also make smaller patties and serve them as lentil tikkis for a great do-ahead party appetizer. As you can see from the recipe, the choices are endless and you can customize them to suit your tastes. These lentil patties make a great alternative to a regular veggie burger with loads of flavor paried the satisfaction of making them at home.
Whats your favorite lunch option and your favorite veggie burger ?